After getting the news of another possible heroin overdose in the county, Schoharie County supervisors agreed to fill two vacant deputy positions in the Sheriff's Office.
A 22-year-old man died of a possible heroin overdose a few days before the December 16 meeting of the county board, Sheriff Tony Desmond told supervisors.
The man, who was not named, was not a native to the county, according to Sheriff Desmond.
A 911 call was made regarding an unresponsive man at a home on Route 7 in the Town of Cobleskill, the Sheriff said. A deputy, county ALS, and a State Trooper responded to the scene. Coroner Matt Coltrain ordered that the body be sent to Albany Medical hospital for an autopsy and officials are still waiting for toxicology tests.
The death may be possibly connected to the use of heroin, Sheriff Desmond added.
At the December 16 meeting, Sheriff Desmond asked supervisor to backfill two deputy positions.
One was vacant due to a promotion of a deputy to investigator and another was vacant because a deputy recently left the county for a better paying position, he told supervisors.
Supervisors approved the request.
Manpower is needed to battle the heroin problem in the county, he stressed.
"I think it's almost a crisis here. Six people in six months is a big percentage and a sad commentary on the way things are and we have to do something."
The next police training academy starts on January 25, and while it is unlikely that the county can get two people at the academy because of civil service issues, at least one should be able to attend the courses, Sheriff Desmond said Friday.
The county, he told supervisors, has a problem because deputies leave for higher paying positions. The deputy in this case left for a position that pays about $20,000 a year more than the county pays.
"Schoharie County has been a training ground for many, many years," noted Seward Supervisor and former Sheriff John Bates.
At the board meeting, Joe Filippone of Catholic Charities spoke about the role of the agency in battling the heroin epidemic.
It is important, he said, to get to the addicts before the matter gets to the police or the Department of Social Services.
The agency provides clean needles for safer injections, as well as HIV and hepatitis C screening.
The issuing of needles does not lead to more use but actually less, he told supervisors since counselors can get to addicts earlier.
"You can talk to some until you're blue in the face, if they're not ready to stop using, they won't stop using," he added.
Some supervisors questioned his statement about clean needles reducing drug use.
When an addict is taking drugs, they will use any needle available, he explained.
Giving out the needles is an "engagement tool" in which counselors can get to addicts earlier on, he continued.